Scales of Mobility: Oxygen (δ18O) and carbon (δ13C) isotopic insights into Xiongnu herding practice

Author(s): Cheryl Makarewicz; Sarah Lublasser

Year: 2015


Herding strategies involving the regular movement of domesticates to new pastures is a critical feature of pastoralist subsistence strategies. However, the utility of strontium isotope analysis as a proxy for mobility becomes complicated in regions where geological substrates are either homogenous over a wide area or are heterogeneous over small distances. Taking advantage of the geographic sensitivity of carbon and oxygen isotopes to precipitation levels, altitude, and latitude, we explore the utility of δ13C and δ18O in tooth enamel to record animal mobility in the Gobi steppe-desert. Here, we establish the seasonal range of isotopic variation in wild caprines and domestic sheep that grazed solely in one location - Baga Gazaryn Chuluu, Mongolia- through carbon (δ13C) and oxygen (δ18O) isotopic analyses of incrementally sampled mandibular molars. Building on these data, we then explore Xiongnu herding strategies involving small-scale mobility in Baga Gazaryn Chuluu.

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Scales of Mobility: Oxygen (δ18O) and carbon (δ13C) isotopic insights into Xiongnu herding practice. Cheryl Makarewicz, Sarah Lublasser. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 397107)